Buffalo supermarket shooter indicted on first-degree murder charge
Payton Gendron, who is accused of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket, was indicted by a grand jury on Thursday. A new, 589-page document of his online diary postings, including preparations for the Buffalo shooting, emerged Monday.
| Conklin and Buffalo, N.Y.
The white man accused of killing 10 Black people at a Buffalo supermarket appeared in court Thursday, standing silently during a brief proceeding attended by some relatives of the victims after a grand jury indicted him. The FBI continues to investigate the possibility of hate crime and terrorism charges.
Assistant district attorney Gary Hackbush said the first-degree murder indictment, which covers all 10 deaths, was handed up Wednesday.
Payton Gendron, 18, livestreamed the attack from a helmet camera before surrendering to police outside the grocery store. Shortly before the attack last Saturday, he posted hundreds of pages of writings to online discussion groups where he detailed his plans for the assault and his racist motivation.
Investigators have been examining those documents, which included a private diary he kept on the chat platform Discord.
At his initial court appearance last week, Mr. Gendron’s court-appointed lawyer entered a plea of “not guilty” on his behalf.
The massacre at the Tops supermarket was unsettling even in a nation that has become almost numb to mass shootings. All but two of the 13 people shot during the attack were Black. Mr. Gendron’s online writings said he planned the assault after becoming infatuated with white supremacist ideology he encountered online.
The diary said Mr. Gendron planned his attack in secret, with no outside help, but Discord confirmed Wednesday that an invitation to access his private writings was sent to a small group of people about 30 minutes before the assault began.
Some of them accepted the invitation. It was unclear how many read what he had written or logged on to view the assault live. It also wasn’t clear whether anyone tried to alert law enforcement.
Buffalo Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia has said investigators were working to obtain, verify, and review Mr. Gendron’s online postings.
New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday authorized the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, to investigate social media platforms used by Mr. Gendron to determine if they were liable for “providing a platform to plan and promote violence.”
In the waning days of Mr. Gendron’s COVID-altered senior year at Susquehanna Valley High School, he logged on to a virtual learning program in economics class that asked: “What do you plan to do when you retire?”
“Murder-suicide,” Mr. Gendron typed.
Despite his protests that it was all a joke, Mr. Gendron, who had long been viewed by classmates as a loner with good grades, was questioned by state police over the possible threat and then taken into custody and to a hospital for a psychiatric evaluation under a state mental health law. But a day and a half later, he was released. And two weeks after that, he was allowed to participate in graduation festivities.
That account of Mr. Gendron’s brush with the law last spring, according to authorities and other people familiar with what happened, emphasized the same point school officials made in a message to parents at the time: An investigation found no specific, credible threat against the school or any individual from that sign of trouble.
Now, the episode is seen as a missed opportunity to uncover a sinister side of Mr. Gendron that he kept hidden from those around him. Even as the FBI swarmed the home where Gendron lived with his parents and two younger brothers, neighbors and classmates in this mostly white community of 5,000 near the New York-Pennsylvania line say they saw no sign of the kind of racist rhetoric seen in a 180-page online diatribe, purportedly written by Mr. Gendron.
In it, he describes in minute detail how he researched ZIP codes with the highest concentrations of Black people, surveilled the Tops supermarket in Buffalo, and carried out the assault to terrorize all nonwhite, non-Christian people into leaving the country.
Mr. Gendron excelled in sciences, once earning top marks in a state chemistry competition. But he was known for keeping to himself and not talking much. And when he did talk, it was about isolation, rejection, and desperation.
At one point last winter, Mr. Gendron’s mother called a friend’s mother with a request: Please have Matthew call Payton because he had no friends and needed to talk.
The two boys ended up going to flea markets together, watching YouTube videos, and shooting guns on nearby state land over the next few months. His friend said that he had never heard his friend talk of anything violent.
Some neighbors had a similar view, seeing the family as happy and prosperous, with both Paul Gendron and his wife, Pamela, holding stable jobs as civil engineers with the New York state Department of Transportation, earning nearly $200,000 combined, according to online records.
Carl Lobdell, a family friend who first met Mr. Gendron on a camping vacation a dozen years ago, said he was shocked that he was identified as the suspect in the mass shooting. “When I heard about the shooting ... I just cried,” he said.
Mr. Gendron enrolled at Broome County Community College and later dropped out. The school wouldn’t say why. And according to online writings attributed to him, he began planning his assault on the Buffalo supermarket beginning at least in November, saying he was inculcated into his racist views online.
“I was never diagnosed with a mental disability or disorder, and I believe to be perfectly sane,” according to one passage.
A new, 589-page document of online diary postings emerged Monday that authorities have attributed to Mr. Gendron. In it, he describes his preparations for the Buffalo supermarket shooting in detail, writing at one point that he considered attacking a predominantly Black elementary school instead.
Some of its passages also aligned with the account AP’s sources gave of his high school threat investigation.
“Another bad experience was when I had to go to a hospitals ER because I said the word’s ‘murder/suicide’ to an online paper in economics class,” said one entry. “I got out of it because I stuck with the story that I was getting out of class and I just stupidly wrote that down. That is the reason I believe I am still able to purchase guns.”
“It was not a joke, I wrote that down because that’s what I was planning to do.”
This story was reported by The Associated Press. Bernard Condon reported from New York. Eric Tucker in Washington, Michael R. Sisak in New York, and news researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed.